Sully is a good representation of how I want people to react when enthralled by a story I’ve written:
But more often than not, I get a reaction more like this:
Or at least, I did. I couldn’t understand why my writing produced these less-than-stellar responses. I had meticulously worded every sentence. I’d made sure there were exciting parts. I had parceled out backstory, setting, and exposition so the reader could understand what the heck was going on. So why did eyes glaze over while reading my book? Why did MY eyes glaze over while reading my own work?
The problem, I finally found out, was that my scenes didn’t turn.
I was cramming all that exposition in right out of the gate, so the reader knew absolutely everything … which meant there wasn’t anything to find out. The scenes were just tiny chronicles where the main character set out to do something and accomplished it with flying colors. Nothing ever happened that surprised him. And consequently, nothing ever happened to surprise the reader.
I wasn’t withholding information, and revealing it methodically.
I wasn’t letting the story spin in new directions. It was always chugging along the straightforward track where I’d dropped my reader.
I wasn’t letting my scenes TURN.
To illustrate what I mean, here’s an example of a great scene with a great turn from a wonderful movie: Beauty and the Beast
*Opening music that makes me want to cry from how beautiful it is*
“Once upon a time, in a faraway land a young prince lived in a shining castle…” (Action: Apparently the world takes action to make sure this prince lives a cushy existence.)
“Although he had everything his heart desired, the prince was spoiled, selfish, and unkind.” (Reaction: And he acts like a brat anyway.)
“But then, one winter’s night, and old beggar woman came to the castle and offered a single rose in return for shelter from the bitter cold.” (Action)
“Repulsed by her haggard appearance, the prince sneered at the gift, and turned the old woman away.” (Reaction)
“But she warned him, not to be deceived by appearances, for beauty is found within.” (Action)
“And when he dismissed her again …” (Reaction)
“The old woman’s ugliness melted away to reveal a beautiful enchantress.” (Action)
“The prince tried to apologize …” (Reaction)
“But it was too late, for she had seen that there was no love in his heart. And as punishment, she transformed him into a hideous beast and placed a powerful spell on the castle, and all who lived there.” (Action)
“Ashamed of his monstrous form, the beast concealed himself inside his castle, with a magic mirror as his only window to the outside world.” (Reaction)
“The rose she had offered was truly an enchanted rose, that would bloom until his 21st year. If he could learn to love another, and earn their love in return, by the time the last petal fell, then the spell would be broken. If not, he would be doomed to remain a beast for all time.” (Action)
“As the years passed, he fell into despair, and lost all hope.” (Reaction)
“For who could ever learn to love a beast?”
Turn: The 6th beat is the turn. The story has spun in a new direction, the direction the WHOLE STORY will motor towards.
Revelation: There’s the big one of the scene turn, but I love how every action and reaction in this prologue feels like a revelation. Each one feels like it could be a scene on it’s own, but it’s told in a just few words, with beautiful imagery. There’s no fluff in this, nothing unnecessary, everything is perfectly needed. (Sorry, I just really love this opening. I can remember sitting in my little wicker rocking chair when I was four watching this in awe. This movie is one of the reasons I’m story obsessed.)
NOW let’s remove all curiosity and surprise from this scene.
We’ll take away the atmosphere of “all is not as it seems”, the “seeking and learning significant information” feeling, the sense that we’re climbing to something significant. Instead of withholding and revealing snippets of information, after gradual beat-by-beat escalation of curiosity, we’ll dump all information right away. We’ll take this beautiful scene, and make it distinctly not a scene by removing all traces of a turn.
So! The purpose of this “section” of story is to communicate necessary information. What info? The guy used to be a terrible prince. Someone cursed him to be a beast. His castle and the people who live there are also cursed. He’s got a rose that will bloom until he’s 21. He’s supposed to fall in love with someone and get that person to love him back. Or he’s going to be a beast forevermore. So, let’s give it a whirl.
Let’s say it opens up on Lumiere and the Beast. They’re just hanging out in the West Wing, the Beast watching the rose sparkle, Lumiere extinguishing and reigniting his left candle/hand for something to do.
LUMIERE: “So Master, it’s been years since you were turned into a beast and the castle staff was turned into objects.”
L: “I wish you hadn’t have upset that enchantress, and been a bit kinder.”
B: “Me too. Don’t know how.”
L: “Now our only hope to return to our human forms, is if you fall in love and get that person to fall in love with you.”
B: *Noncommittal grunt*
L: “Better happen soon, before that last petal on the magical rose falls. When you turn 21, it’s going to fall. And if you haven’t learned to love by then, well, we’re stuck.”
B: “I’m aware."
Well, that was extraordinarily awful.
So what about these scenes is different? (Besides one being a work of art and the other being agony in text form.)
– One withholds information and reveals it slowly, turning the story at the end.
– One is just an info dump.
So how can a turn be accomplished? There are four types of turns:
– Amplified Curiosity
– New Insight
– Spin in New Direction
A SURPRISE turn is the difference between what the character expects and what actually happens, surprising them, surprising the reader/audience that is enthralled by your story. A CURIOSITY turn is when a new mystery is presented to the reader, increasing their drive to find out what happens next. An INSIGHT one is when a scene ends by solving a mystery, answering a question that the audience has been wondering about. And a SPIN is just that, a turn that jolts the story into a new unexpected direction.
And how do they work in a scene?
The turn happens at the end. It’s the point of the scene. Everything’s leading to it. Think of it as the period punctuation mark on the end of the sentence that is your scene. But really your reader is anticipating that turn throughout the scene. It’s this anticipation and “gradual illumination” that’s crucial to a story turn. This is the wonderful curious feeling that keeps us turning pages. That sense that “all is not as it seems, and if I keep reading I’ll find out the truth.” which is so intoxicating. And this is accomplished with beats, the exchanges of action and reaction, each acting like a escalation on a roller coaster, each increasing anticipation for the drop.
Turns and revelation anticipation are rather magical when you think about it. They really are (as Robert McKee says) the substance of story. (Or they’re magical to me. I said I was obsessed. Blame this movie!)
Now I’m going to go watch Beauty and the Beast again.
So after looking at prices and stuff, I decided to print more of Nate + two new types of charms. I’ve gotten requests especially for Sully and Nadine but I’m still a bit undecided who I should choose. Sully would be chill next to the others, Elena would look cool right next to Nate and Nadine has THOSE ARMS that I really want to draw <_<’ Not sure who to go with…
a 3,000 pages book in which Victor Sullivan tells us about his adventures, trips and jobs he had ever since he started in the treasure hunting field; where he went, what happened, what kind of treasures and mysteries he was risking his life for. I wanna celebrate the victories and laugh or feel bad about the failures.
I wanna read about the people he met.
I want to hear his voice in my head when he tells us all the “did I tell you that time when…”, the “when I was a kid…” or the “before you were even born…” stories.
I wanna know why he came to Montreal with Nate.
I wanna know what kind of kid Sully was and what made him what he is today.
I wanna know what kind of illegal stuff he was running in the Navy before he gets kicked out.
I want him to explain how it went with Nate when he brought him home after the Cartagena heist and how he felt about having to take care of a kid.
I wanna know what happened between Sam and Sully that made Sam not trust him 15 years later. Was it just because Nate had a father figure to take care of him all those years and Sam’s just jealous he didn’t have one - or wasn’t there to take care of Nate himself and missed all those years? At least, until Sully shows he cares about Sam in UC4 and Sam grew fond of him, pretty quickly?
I wanna read - and be excited and laugh and maybe cry a little - about Sully & Sam’s adventures.
I wanna know more about Sully and Cassie’s bond, their games and their secret stories. I wanna know about the ladies. I wanna know his secrets.
All I want is a huge ass book about Victor Goddamn Sullivan’s life.
[ Whyyyy? I blame this on you. Here, have some feels. ]
Being an imaginary friend is serious business; Sully should know.
There’s always something left over after it ends, always a faint awareness of his kids. His kids. The other Zanna sometimes shake their heads. “Don’t prod,” they say, “It fades.” It’s not good to hold on so tightly, they tell him. Job like this, it takes a lot out of you—seeing all that pain and trying to bring brightness, trying to paint bright colors over all the ugliness. Zanna can’t get drunk. Forget, they say. Let go. Especially ones like Sam, the messy ones.
Move on. You give all of yourself to every kid, but you’ve gotta have the sense to take it back when it’s over or they’ll break you. But maybe these kids deserve to have someone break for them.
Sully felt when Sam died the first time, and the second time. He felt when Sam jumped into Hell and left the plane the Zanna operated on. A flutter—a blink, and Sam was gone, like a TV turned off.
They tell Sully he’s wrong to hold on like this, that Winchesters break everything they touch. Sully knows better, of course. Sam has always been a hero; that will never change.
Sully was with Magda for only a few days, a special case no one else dared to touch. Too old, a lot of them said of the regressed, suffering mind that had all but cried out to them. Too unstable, too dangerous, that one, with the powers to detroy Zanna if she wished. Lonely, despairing, lost. Can’t help every kid. Save your resources for the ones you can actually save.
She reminded him of Sam, so Sully went.
She found solace for just a few days before her mother had caught her talking to him. “Demon,” the woman had whispered when she saw her daughter speaking to empty air. “Consorting with demons.”
Magda had bled out her penance for finding peace with him. Sully knew when he wasn’t wanted, when his presence caused more harm than good. He left.
Magda was crossed off the list of potentials as a mutually destructive relationship. Didn’t mean Sully couldn’t still sense her sometimes, that bone-deep despair and self-hatred. (Like Sam, so much like Sam.)
He felt when she met Sam, felt something like light growing in him, two souls mending each other. He had never hated the bond, but he never loved it more than when he felt two of his kids bring each other such frail, tentative joy.
He feels them part, better for having met, feels the pain he never quite healed in Sam scabbing over, senses a hope within Magda he barely thought possible.
Sully cherishes that while it lasts, and he feels good.
He senses Magda fading, of course.
He’s by her side in an instant, just by thinking it. Benefits of the bond, if you hold onto it.
“It’s all right,” he says, stroking her hair as she fades. He doesn’t let her hear the tears that threaten his voice. “You told me you believed in heaven, right?”
He watches a Reaper appear, stares her down as she settles in front of Magda, gaze steady. She’s calm and self-possessed, with a leather jacket and tall boots and warm, dark skin.
He’s only a Zanna, but he’ll make sure this Reaper takes Magda where she belongs, he swears it. The reaper stares at him, raises an eyebrow, and nods, as if amused by his helpless defiance.
Sully turns back to Magda. “Well, that’s where you’re going. You’re going right to heaven, Magda. You’ve always been so good. Here,” he whispers. He feels Magda’s soul let go of her redundant body, heart no longer beating. “Here. This lady’s gonna bring you home. You’ll be so happy there.”
Magda looks at him, and she smiles.
“Come on,” the Reaper says, and when Magda takes her hand, Sully watches her soul spiral upward in a blaze of light. The Reaper nods, once, and disappears, leaving Sully on the ground with the vacant, bloodied body of his girl.
Let go, they’ve always told him. It’ll drive you mad to hold on to them. Zanna live too long to tie themselves to every assignment.
And maybe they’re right. His record is the spottiest of them all. Maybe he’s sewn so much of himself into his kids that they take it with them whenever they go.
He remembers her smile as she faded, though, remembers meeting Sam last year, remembers the warmth Sam’s meeting with Magda brought to both of them, feeling the both of them grow because of it.
No, he’ll never regret any of it. He’ll see every last one of them off if he has to, break himself open for every beautiful soul.
In 1776, British troops evacuated Boston, abandoning their occupation of the city for the remainder of the American Revolution. The residents celebrated by drinking, fighting, and destroying property. You know, the traditional Boston way.
Story idea…what if a hero decided to defeat their villain by doing “anonymous” good deeds and donations but having all the details point back to the villain being the one doing them? And public opinion of the villain starts to shift, starting to view them more favorably and being more inclined to be forgiving of them.
And at the villain is infuriated because how dare someone do this, their actions are theirs and they will not have anyone try to sully what the reputation they’ve worked so hard for!
But…that people are so ready to make peace with them, so willing to give them another chance…it makes them almost want to truly do those actions that that anonymous fool is duping everyone into believing is theirs.
(Or the villain proves once and for all that they ARE a bastard and very publicly nukes the charity that the hero has been making those anonymous donations to)